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FULL TIME, PICTURES ADDED: Wigan Warriors 17 Warrington Wolves 17
Joel Monaghan crossed for two tries to extend his scoring record against Warriors to four straight matches. PICTURES BY MIKE BODEN
A LATE drop goal from Lee Briers salvaged a deserved draw for Warrington Wolves in an error-strewn contest at the DW Stadium.
Wolves have not lost at Wigan’s home ground since 2009, but needed some late heroics from their talismanic stand-off to rescue a share of the points, despite enjoying the best of an action-packed second half.
Joel Monaghan’s brace extended the winger’s prolific scoring record against Warriors to four matches, but despite Richie Myler’s twinkle-toed individual effort early in the second half Wolves’ usually lethal attacking options struggled to break Wigan down.
Handling errors and some early season rust from the visitors meant a Matty Smith drop goal was enough to put Wigan into a narrow lead after tries from Josh Charnley, Ben Flower and Liam Farrell. But Wolves breathed a sigh of relief as they snatched a point from the jaws of defeat thanks to Briers’ effort off the post in the 77th minute.
Wolves opened their account in typical fashion after Wigan were punished for a knock on in the tackle on their 20-metre line. Taking full advantage of the gift, Wolves switched the play and pounced after manoeuvring into position on the right wing. Michael Monaghan and Lee Briers combined to send Joel Monaghan into space, with the Aussie winger finishing in trademark fashion with a dive to the corner. Brett Hodgson added the extras to give Wolves the perfect start after 10 minutes.
But their lead was short-lived, as the home side began to control possession almost immediately after going behind. They were helped when Wolves quickly returned the earlier favour by gifting Wigan a fresh set within 20 metres of their own try line, Chris Hill penalised for holding down in the tackle. Ben Westwood and Lee Briers diffused the immediate danger in favour of a goal line drop-out, but Wigan smelled blood and soon opened their account after Darrell Goulding’s flick offload sent Josh Charnley over in the corner.
With the wind in their sails, Wigan cranked up the pressure and Tony Smith’s men struggled to respond. First Briers knocked on, then Wolves were caught offside to allow the hosts to move into position to score their second of the night. Substitute Ben Flower had only just come on the field, but he was sharp enough to take Liam Farrell’s pass and stretch out for the line after some sloppy defending from Warrington. Having missed the first effort, Pat Richards made no mistake from in front of the posts to leave the score 10-6 after 24 minutes.
It was to get no better for Wolves as the half went on, with individual errors preventing them from retaining possession or building any attacking pressure. Having replaced fellow forward Chris Hill in a triple substitution also involving Adrian Morley and Michael Monaghan, Mike Cooper showed that he was in need of some game time after knocking on three times in quick succession. The second was particularly frustrating, given it came moments after Simon Grix had pounced on a Wigan error to move Wolves close to the home try line.
But despite being second best for much of the first half, Wolves were able to drag themselves level after Sam Tomkins dropped a Briers bomb under intense pressure from Ryan Atkins. It was similar to their first try, with the ball moving right and Hodgson’s pass sending Monaghan in for his second of the night. Hodgson was wide with the kick.
But further errors conspired to send them into the break behind, as Garreth Carvell completed a poor half for Wolves’ interchange substitutions by knocking on and then giving away a penalty in front of the sticks to allow Richards’ boot to give Wigan a slender 12-10 advantage at the break.
But it was in the second half when the game really exploded into life, and it was Wolves who drew first blood. Back-to-back penalties moved the visitors to within striking distance, and a long pass from Briers gave Richie Myler the chance to demonstrate deft footwork as he side-stepped his way through three defenders on his way to the line. Hodgson goaled to make it 16-12.
Wigan would not take it lying down, as they responded in kind almost immediately to restore parity. Wolves thought they had dragged the home side into touch, but referee Phil Bentham instead gave a penalty to the hosts and fresh impetus to the Wigan attack. It was a try made by Blake Green’s dummy, as he combined with Matty Smith then delayed his pass perfectly to send Liam Farrell over on the left. Richards missed his second kick of the night to leave the score poised at 16-16.
Much like Wigan in the first half, Wolves started to gain control of the match and applied real pressure on the host’s line. Wigan handed the visitors penalty after penalty around the hour mark, but try as they might Wolves just could not breach Warriors’ dogged line defence. It was a Rhys Evans knock on that eventually broke the pressure, and Wolves were left to rue that fruitless spell of domination when Matty Smith’s drop goal on 72 minutes handed the home side a 17-16 lead.
As time ticked away things were looking bleak for Warrington, but there was still time for some late drama when Briers stepped up to kick a drop goal that went over off the post. Both sides battled for the winning drop goal in the final moments, but efforts from Smith and Briers both fell short as the teams settled for a well-deserved share of the points.
Warriors: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Iain Thornley, Pat Richards; Blake Green, Matty Smith; Gil Dudson, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Jack Hughes, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin. Subs: Ben Flower, Scott Taylor, Sam Powell, Greg Burke.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Rhys Evans, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Simon Grix. Subs: Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Micky Higham, Stefan Ratchford.